In this latest adventure from Big Finish’s Short Trips series, Prime Winner sees the TARDIS making a forced landing on a spaceship that is homed to a lavish 1930s-styled casino. But the games being played in the alluring halls are unlike anything they would find on Earth, with the players being far from human, and then Peri sees someone who just so happens to look almost identical to her stepfather (last seen in 1985’s Planet of Fire). The Doctor & Peri then play detective to find out what exactly is going on and why it is that “Howard” is even on-board the space casino, and why it is he’s winning so many “Prime Wins”.
When it comes to Doctor Who, the concepts of dopplegangers, robot duplicates and cases of mistaken identity have been staples of the show’s storytelling for a very long time, with the Whoniverse littered with people who just so happen to look like our heroes in order to serve one plot reason or another. We’ve had the Dalek’s robot duplicate of the Doctor in The Chase, the parallel universe in Inferno, Commander Maxil in Arc of Infinity, The Android Invasion, Caecilius in The Fires of Pompeii, and even the Meta-Crisis 10th Doctor. In the case of this, the story uses the hook of a lookalike to draw us in, but as with The Doctor himself, all is not as it seems.
This story works well with the Sixth Doctor’s era; with the very mention and description of the giant space casino, you can just imagine the bright and gaudy costumes and sets that would’ve been created if this story ever went into production back in the mid-80s. However, by the end of the story, you’ll probably feel confused by the narrative’s complex nature or unsatisfied by some questions that are left unanswered, which does give the sense that this story feels somewhat incomplete as a result.
Being given the job of narrating the entire story, Nicola Bryant does a solid job of getting into character as Peri when needed, as well as slipping effortlessly with the other characters, getting Colin Baker’s bombastic personality off to perfection, as well as imbuing all the minor characters with a sense of identity and individuality. Nigel Fairs’ writing evokes the feeling of a 1985 TV episode, the pacing is solid for the most part, and the writing does make a lot of it visual in your mind.
In the end, it’s not one of the most classic of stories to be produced by Big Finish, it is a mistaken identity story, and it’s quite a small scale bit of villainy, but it is a solidly written story that is performed well by Nicola Bryant, and does a good job at being an entertaining 42-minute mini-adventure that passes the time well.
DOCTOR WHO: SHORT TRIPS- PRIME WINNER / DIRECTOR: LISA BOWERMAN / AUTHOR: NIGEL FAIRS / STARRING: NICOLA BRYANT / PUBLISHER: BIG FINISH / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW